Domestic Violence

Overview of Domestic Violence

Abuse or threats of abuse between persons who have been in an intimate relationship or people that are related by blood may be domestic violence. Abuse is widely defined and may be sexual, physical, and/or psychological. It may include blocking someone's path, holding them down, shoving them, throwing an item, or pulling hair.  Hurting someone, whether through intentional or reckless conduct, may be domestic violence.

Consequences to the perpetrator of domestic violence may be a finding that a person is an unfit parent and the issuance of a protective order into the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS). If the perpetrator has contact with a police officer, they will see the protective order filed in the CLETS system.

There may be significant effects on child custody, child support, and kick-out orders from the residence. Examples include:

  1. A perpetrator parent must overcome the presumption that it is not in a child's best interests for the perpetrator parent to have joint custody with the other parent;
  2. A perpetrator may be required to attend a 52-week batter's program;
  3. There will be restrictions on ownership and possession of firearms;
  4. There may be an order for the payment of restitution; and/or
  5. Attorney fees may be ordered to be paid to the victim.

A restraining order may protect family or members of the protected party’s household.

A permanent restraining order issued by the family law court may be granted for up to five (5) years and be extended for a lifetime.

The family law court may look at past acts of abuse and shall consider the totality of circumstances when determining whether to grant or deny a protective order request.

Past Acts and Current Fear

Proof of a past act of domestic violence together with credible evidence of the protected party’s continued fear may warrant the issuance of a restraining order by a family law court.

Intention of Reckless Behavior

Intentional or reckless behavior that causes bodily injury or reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury or that disturbs the peace of the other party constitutes abuse under the Domestic Violence Protective Act.

Disturbing The Peace

The meaning of “disturbing the peace of the other party” may be interpreted by a family law courtas conduct that destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party.

Mental abuse may be the basis for issuance of a protective order by a family law court under the Domestic Violence Protective Act.  Controlling behavior and threats may be sufficient to demonstrate the destruction of a party’s mental and emotional peace.

Disclosing Content of Text/Emails

Accessing, reading, and publicly disclosing the content of a text or e-mail of a party may fall into the definition of abuse.

Fake Suicide Video

An appellate court found that purposefully sending a video of a staged fake suicide to a spouse was conduct that disturbed the peace of the other party and was abuse.

Mutual Restraining Orders and Findings

For a protective order to be issued pursuant to the Domestic Violence Protective Act, the family law court must issue the required findings of fact.  This requirement also applied to mutual restraining orders.

Each party must request a Restraining Order for the granting of mutual restraining orders.  The family law court does not have jurisdiction to issue restraining orders against each party unless each party has requested such relief in their respective pleadings.

Attorneys Fees

The family law court may order one party to pay the attorneys fees of the other in a Domestic Violence Protective Act action.  On appeal, a family law court's order will not be reversed unless the court has abused its discretion and the order “shocks the conscious” because of the amount of the award.